A guide to safe partying

When starting university, partying can become a big part of the university experience as a way to make friends, socialise and have fun and new experiences.

Alcohol and other drugs can be an unavoidable part of these experiences as they are a big part of Australian partying culture. Therefore, it’s important to be stay informed and be aware of the different types of drugs and their effects so you can stay safe if you choose to take them.

Young people are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of alcohol and other drugs as their brains are still developing and it can directly and indirectly harm your physical and psychological health, wellbeing and development.

Young people will use alcohol and other drugs for many reasons, these might include to:

  • feel good or relax
  • get high
  • deal with peer pressure
  • cope with stress, anxiety or feelings of depression
  • deal with emotional pain or a history of trauma
  • experiment
  • stay awake or fall asleep
  • increase confidence
  • lose weight
  • enhance social experiences – such as partying

There are different ways young people use alcohol or drugs, some being:

  • Experimental – alcohol or drugs are tried because a young person is curious, wants to fit in, or their friends are using.
  • Recreational – alcohol or drugs are used socially, often to enhance experiences like clubbing or at festivals.
  • Situational – alcohol or drugs are used to cope with the demands of a specific situation, such as using amphetamines to stay awake and study during exams.
  • Intensive – alcohol or drugs are used to get relief or cope in multiple situations and settings – use is heavier and more frequent.
  • Dependent – alcohol or drug use takes control. The brain is physically dependent on the substance, causing a preoccupation with drug-seeking/drug-taking behaviour often to the exclusion of everything else.

Alcohol is a drug and a depressant. Alcohol use, in particular, is associated with adverse effects on the developing brain, leading to learning difficulties, potential alcohol dependence and depression.

As drinking is a big part of Australian culture, it’s strongly connected to social situations. It can therefore become difficult to find a gathering or party that doesn’t involve the consumption of alcohol.

It’s important to understand your limits and be aware of the effects alcohol can have, so you can stay safe while drinking.

The negative effects of drinking include:


  • Headaches, nausea and fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness and a lack of coordination
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Lack of judgement
  • Memory loss
  • Accidental injury
  • Deliberately harming yourself or others
  • Being in a road accident


Increased risk of:

  • cancer
  • liver disease
  • stroke and dementia
  • heart attack
  • stomach and bowel cancer
  • infertility in men and women

In Australia, you may hear the term “a standard drink”. A standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol regardless of the size of the container (glass, bottle, can) or type of alcohol (beer, wine, spirit). For example:

375ml can or bottle full-strength beer = 1.4 standard drinks

150ml wine = 1.4 standard drinks

30 ml spirits = 1 standard drink

To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy adults should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.

The less you drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol.

How can you reduce your alcohol intake?

  • Enjoy a mocktail. Check out these literary mocktail recipes from the State Library of New South Wales.
  • Drink water instead of alcohol and use it to quench your thirst
  • Sip alcoholic drinks slowly or pause between drinks
  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with water to stay hydrated
  • Have alcohol-free days each week
  • Avoid using alcohol to deal with stress, anxiety or poor sleep
  • Know your standard drinks
  • Set limits on and count your drinks
  • Swap to low or no alcohol alternatives
  • Change your routine
  • Don't keep alcohol in the house
  • Keep a diary of how much you’re drinking
  • Switch to other activities or hobbies you can do with your friends and family

Benefits of reducing your alcohol intake include:

  • Save money
  • Boost your mood
  • Sleep better
  • Improved fitness
  • Support your mental health and wellbeing
  • Avoid hangovers
  • Increase productivity
  • Improve relationships
  • Have more time for other activities or hobbies

Check out this link for more information on alcohol and its effects.

Illicit or illegal drugs are never safe to use as they impact your health and life in harmful ways. One Australian dies of an overdose every 4 hours and there were 2,231 drug-related deaths last year in Australia with 1,675 unintentional deaths.

Therefore, it is very important you understand the effects of different drugs you may choose to consume so you can stay safe while partying and at events such as music festivals where drug-taking is common.

Learn more about NSW drug laws.

The three most common illicit drugs used by young people in Australia are:


Cannabis is the most common illegal drug in Australia and is a central nervous system depressant that alters sensory perceptions.

Side effects:

  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Increased risk of respiratory illness such as sore throat, asthma, bronchitis and lung cancer
  • Increased risk of mouth, throat and lip cancer
  • Reduced motivation and energy
  • Impaired concentration, memory, and learning
  • Mental health disorders including psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Depression


Cocaine or coke is a stimulant drug which speeds up the brain and nervous system. Cocaine is often mixed or cut with other things that look the same to make more of the drug. Some of these mixed in substances can include substances with harmful effects such as laundry detergent or laxatives.

Side effects:

  • Heart attacks
  • Chest pain or lung damage
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Impaired memory and learning
  • Unpredictable violent or aggressive behaviour
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Seizures
  • Strokes

Ecstasy or MDMA

Ecstasy has both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects and is a derivative of methamphetamine. It speeds up the brain and the central nervous system and can cause people to see, hear, feel or smell things that do not exist.

Side effects:

  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Fitting/seizures
  • Delirium
  • Irritability
  • Low mood
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Vomiting
  • Heatstroke
  • Increased body temperature (hyperthermia)
  • Dehydration
  • Drinking excessive amounts of water (can lead to coma and death)

Taking drugs comes with extreme risks to yourself and others.

Here are some things to remember if you still choose to take drugs:

  • Avoid mixing drugs, including alcohol
  • Know your limits
  • Don’t drink or take drugs alone
  • Eat food before drinking or taking drugs
  • Start slow and stay hydrated
  • Tell friends what you are taking in case you have a bad reaction
  • Research the drug’s effects before you take it
  • Don't drink or take drugs and drive- travel with a friend or parent who is sober and hasn’t taken anything or catch an uber, taxi, or public transport
  • Only accept drinks from people you know and trust and don’t leave your glass unattended
  • Call 000 for an ambulance in case of emergency – they will not involve the police

To learn more about other types of drugs and the negative effects, check out the A to Z of drugs.

Check out these tips on how to stay safe during music festivals.

Smoking tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes or vapes among young people continues to rise rapidly. Research has found that if an individual tries vaping, they are 3 times more likely to take up smoking cigarettes.

Tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes both contain high levels of nicotine, a highly addictive and brain-altering drug that when consumed regularly can have detrimental effects. Smoking also causes damage to almost every organ in the body and increases the risk of severe health problems including heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

Other negative side effects of smoking include:

  • Addiction to nicotine
  • Reduced lung growth
  • Reduced lung function
  • Cardiovascular damage
  • Damaged brain development
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease, stroke and blood circulation problems
  • Breathing problems or chronic respiratory conditions
  • Infections
  • Fertility problems
  • Hearing or vision loss
  • Dental problems
  • Osteoporosis and menopause

Contact the NSW Quitline on 13 7848 (13 QUIT) or visit NSW Quitline for support if you want to quit.

It can be hard to say “no” when your friends are putting pressure on you to drink alcohol or try other drugs. You may feel the need to fit in by saying “yes” or think your friends may view you differently or that it may damage your friendship if you say “no” to them.

However, it is important that you learn the skills to resist peer pressure so you can live authentically and remain true to your personal values by not being pressured into things you don’t want to do.

Some strategies to deal with peer pressure include:

  • Be confident and say “no thanks” or “not for me”
  • Use humour to deflect pressure or attention
  • Remove yourself from the situation
  • Get support and talk to someone you trust
  • Know your boundaries
  • Be direct and tell them you don’t appreciate feeling pressured
  • Give them a valid reason why you don’t want to
  • Suggest to your friend that you do something else/a different activity
  • Spending less time with people who try to peer pressure you to do things that feel wrong or dangerous

Resources and support

Support Services Contact Information

Emergency contact: 000

NSW Quitline: 13 7848 (13 QUIT)

Student Wellbeing: 9850 7497

13 Yarn: 13 92 76

ADIS (Alcohol and Drug Information Service): 1800 250 015

Kids Helpline (ages 5 – 25): 1800 551 800

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

Helpful Apps

Download the Drinks Meter App on the Apple App Store or Google Play

Live GPS app Search Party

My Quit Buddy App

Reframe: Drink Less & Thrive App